Electric Transmission and GIS

Blog Post created by krichardson-esristaff Employee on Jun 26, 2015

Guest post by Bill Meehan, Esri Utility Solutions Director


Where were you on August 14, 2003, at 4 p.m. Eastern Time? That’s when much of the northeastern United States was blacked out. No power.
Sweaty office workers got stuck in elevators from Manhattan to Cleveland. Traffic signals died everywhere. Tons of food spoiled. At the time, people were still wary from 9/11.


The culprit for disaster this time? Well there many.  But two of them were rather skinny ailanthus trees that had become a little too big for their britches. They grew too close to the heavily loaded Stuart-Atlanta 345kV transmission line. And when transmission lines carry a lot of power their conductors sag. So as fate would have it, at the worst possible time, the sagged lines came in contact with those two little trees. So the line tripped out. This was one in a series of cascading events – which created one of the largest power failures in the nation’s history.


The 2003 blackout illustrates the devastating impact a transmission failure can have. Most power failures aren’t so devastating, true. That’s because most happen on the lower-voltage distribution lines you see on our city streets. People crash into poles, or ice forms on the lines, and power fails. While these situations cause havoc, they are often localized. When a transmission line fails or is damaged, all **** breaks loose. Talk to Alabama Power, for instance. That team lost a big chunk of their transmission system during a devastating tornado a couple of years ago. It was ****.  Too bad they didn’t have the ArcGIS platform back then.

GIS to the Rescue?

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Modeling Electric Transmission in ArcGIS helps overcome the troublesome three Ts.


People often say that the blackout of 2003 was due to the three “T’s” – trees, technology, and training. Trees grow too big. Technology
fails. And lack of training gets in the way of fixing things.  Today, many transmission utilities have embraced ArcGIS technology to help with the three T’s. GIS has become a critical technology for improving tree, or vegetation management.  But the software helps more, too. Operators, for instance, improve situational awareness. Back in the old days, going back to 2003, control room operators had no easy way to spatially visualize the geographic context of the transmission system. They had only schematic diagrams. With ArcGIS, operators can now see the transmission system in a more meaningful, contextualized way. Adding the spatial view helps operators keep the transmission system healthy and intact.  That’s just the tip of what GIS can do. Want the whole berg?


GIS, Transmission, and You – At the UC


There will be a special focus on electric transmission at Esri International User Conference. Attend an inaugural, pre-conference seminar hosted specifically for electric transmission utilities. Hear from transmission operators sharing their experiences using the ArcGIS platform. Then, during the main conference, you’ll have several opportunities to hear additional users explaining new best practices for electric transmission.


Don’t forget that the conference is a great opportunity to network with your peers. You will meet plenty of folks who have taken advantage
of GIS to improve the operation of their transmission system. Talk to everyone. They will all have unique experiences. In fact, there will be a social on Tuesday of the conference for you to get together. You can tell your stories and listen to your colleague’ stories about the three “T”s and GIS.


Learn more about sessions dedicated specifically to you.  See you at UC!